Guide to biomechanics
Your running style will determine what shoes you need to buy. Buy the wrong style of shoe and your running might well become uncomfortable and lead to injury.
Whether you are road running, treadmill running or running anywhere else a key factor will be your own personal biomechanics.
When your foot hits the ground (at up to three times your body weight!), it is likely to be landing on the outside of the heel. Your foot then rolls inwards to be flat on the ground. This rolling motion is called 'pronation'. It absorbs shock and gives you balance as you run.
It is very common for a runner to have their foot roll too far as they run. This is called 'over-pronation'. To work out whether you over-pronate is quite straight forward and there is no need to worry if you find you are an 'over-pronator'. It is a very common trait and there are plenty of shoes designed to help manage your footstrike, keep you comfortable and help you avoid injury.
Check out our swanky video. It shows a runner who is prone to over-pronation. They run first in a pair of neutral shoes and then again in a pair of shoes designed to offer support or ‘motion control’. Hopefully, you’ll clearly notice that the motion control shoes help support the excessive pronation movement, clever eh?!
For more information on the various types of shoes available, check out our article, Guide to buying your shoes here.
The old shoe test
Take a look at a pair of your old shoes to see what kind of shoes you need:
Stand them on a level surface and look at them from behind the heel.
If you over-pronate your shoes will show a slight inward lean. You need support shoes or motion control shoes if your feet roll in too far. *Many people make the mistake of looking at wear on the outsole at the outside of the heel and thinking they don't over-pronate. This wear is caused on landing and does not relate to pronation.
Under-pronation is when a runner's foot does not roll far enough. If you under-pronate your shoes will show a slight outwards lean. Choose a pair of neutral cushioning shoes.
Correct pronation means there won't be any lean. Your feet are said to be neutral. You should choose neutral shoes but could wear shoes with some stability features (sometimes offering more comfort especially if running longer distances).
A final thing to consider. If you have run in support / motion control shoes in the past, not had injury problems and your shoes show no signs of inwards lean, then it probably means that you do need support / motion control shoes, i.e. the shoes have successfully prevented the over-pronation in the past. Simple rule - stick to what’s worked before.
The wet foot test
An alternative way of being guided as to what type of shoe you'll need is the wet foot test.
With damp feet leave a barefoot print on a tiled floor (don't use a soft floor or carpet).
If you have a 'flat foot' it shows you have a low arch. Your foot print will show almost the whole sole of your foot with the band between heel and forefoot virtually the full width of your foot. Low arches usually indicate your feet are prone to over-pronation.
If you have a 'regular' arch the band between heel and forefoot will be around half the width of your foot. There is less likely to be a problem with over-pronation.
If you have a high arch you will see only a narrow band, or even no band at all, between the forefoot and the heel on your wet foot print. This indicates a high likelihood of under-pronation. You too should choose a neutral shoe.
Hopefully, we’ve given you enough to determine your running style. From here you can check out our reviews based on your running style. Good luck!